Sapulpa Chieftains ranked 8 in 6A basketball

Chieftains open season ranked 8th in 6A boys hoops
Posted on 12/03/2018
Boys basketball practice(SPS) - Second-year varsity boys basketball head coach Rickey Bruner makes no bones about THE goal for his team this year.

“Our number one expectation is to make a state tournament run this season.”

It would be the first time the boys' program has made it to state since 1999.

The team is loaded with returning players from last season’s squad that got off to a promising 12-2 start before the injury bug bit. That team finished with a 14-10 record but the experience helped Bruner to better prepare the team this year. Because of the hard practices he runs, he said he’s giving the guys a little more rest and making sure they get the treatment they need.

“I’ve tried to do a better job this year of having those recovery days. Understanding your players better being in year two. You come in that first year and you’re on ‘em, you’re on ‘em, you’re on ‘em, but now I have a better understanding of the players that I have and the needs that they have.”

That understanding is key as the 6A eighth-ranked Chieftains begin the season with eight straight road games, the first one against top-ranked Booker T.

“It’s gonna be fun. Number one team right off the bat but that’s why you play the game. When that game tips off there’ll probably be 10 guys that start that game that will play college basketball,” said Bruner.

“You wanna play against the best competition. Our goal is to be the top program in the state of Oklahoma, so if you wanna be the best, you gotta go beat the best.”

And to beat the best, you must have chemistry and Coach Bruner said that unity has helped bring the team together.

"One of our mottos this year is 'strength in numbers' because we play a lotta bodies. We throw, you know, we come at you in waves and guys are really playing together."

Making a return to the court this year is senior Julian Smith and his 25-points-per-game scoring average.

“He’s one of the best players in the state of Oklahoma and he has the experience.”

“[Smith’s] been a guy that’s really bought into and leads us, sharing the basketball, cause he can really fill it up. And he’s done a really nice job of you know, turning down a few shots to get other guys shots, and sometimes that’s not easy.

One of those who will benefit from Smith’s play, will be Broken Arrow transfer Camryn Dennis who has been a nice addition for the team.

“He’s just super unselfish,” said Bruner. “He played on a state tournament basketball team last year so he gives us that experience, what it takes. And he’s just bought into everything we’ve tried to do.”

Bruner is also expecting big contributions from Hunter Hoggatt, Ja Mario Jones, Jacoby Durant, and the boys from the gridiron - Eli Williams, Te’Zohn Taft, and Markal Durant.

“Since we got our football players in now, they’ve come in and the energy has picked up.”

With the experience his players have in their second year under him, Coach Bruner has his eyes set on taking advantage of the Chieftain Center and hosting a regional.

"The Chieftain Center is a great facility you know. Our fans come out and fill it up. It’s loud in here. We’ve got a great student section," said Bruner. "The support we get from our hometown, from our home crowd, our players feed off that."

Regardless of how the season takes shape, his message to the boys is about more than what happens on the court.

“We always tell ‘em, it’s bigger than basketball. Do we wanna win a state championship? Of course, but that’s not our number one goal. Our number one is for them to go to college, become a productive citizen, be great young men. We try to instill that in our guys.

The Chieftains open the season Dec. 4 at Booker T. Washington. View the full schedule of games here.

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